A day in the life of a tour guide

From time to time, I guide groups of Swedish tourists. I am lucky enough to be able to cherry-pick tours that interest me which means that I get paid to do stuff I love! But make no mistake, guiding is not being on holiday. Right now, I’m guiding a 3-week hiking tour through Swaziland, South Africa and Lesotho. Here’s what a normal day looks like:

Wake up at 5 to plan the day, pack the day-pack (and the suitcase on days that we move, which is more or less every other day). Make sure that breakfast will be ready on time, and that the lunch-packs contain the agreed food and drink. Make sure the group is ready for the day, answer questions about route, times and weather (Swedes are obsessed with weather, current and future – a question that particularly puzzles people here is “what temperature is it now?”). Sit down for a quick breakfast, then check that the driver is ready (and make sure that all bags are packed into the trailer on moving days).

Then comes the nice bit: hike for 5-6 hours in stunning locations! During the hike, make sure that everyone is fine with the pace, explain about the things and places we see, and make sure you have one or two back-up plans in case someone needs to go slower or wants to end the hike earlier. Remind people to apply sunscreen and drink water. Remember to put sunscreen on own face (this, I have learned the hard way).

After the hike, make sure everyone is happy and inform where a cold beer can be procured. Inform about dinner time, wifi and plans (and weather) for tomorrow. Check that the hotel has dinner ready for the agreed time, and make sure they know who is paying for what (especially when each one is paying for their own drinks – one bill for the table will spell BIG problems…). Plan the next day: call ahead to the hotel, make sure local guides know when and where to meet up, chat to the driver about the route (make sure he thinks he is making all the decisions), check weather forecast. Try to get some of the “office” work done (especially if there is internet connection that is faster than the drink-service). Have dinner with clients, make sure drinks are served promptly (Swedes do not do African Time) and that bills are issued as agreed. Explain why the internet is so slow.

Try to get some more office work done before crashing at 9pm. Sleep like a baby, then repeat all over again.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s an awesome job! I’m just saying it takes more to make a holiday than it does to go on one 😉. But the rewards are plentiful!


A cuppa to stay awake and a sherry for creativity!




One of the benefits of early starts: stunning sunrises!

One of the benefits of early starts: stunning sunrises!


5 responses to “A day in the life of a tour guide

  1. “What temperature is it now?” and “Explain why the Internet is so slow”, hahaha! I can totally picture your Q&A sessions! I used to live in China, and kind of the same questions were asked when I had customers over, like “why haven’t the Chinese learnt to eat with a fork yet?” or “why do we all share the dishes at our table? Cannot we have our own plate and chosen food?” or “how long is it going to rain today?”
    Well, I loved my job too at the time, because such silly questions let us create the connexion with the customers and afterwards you get soo much accomplished and in a positive atmosphere!

    • Totally agree Sophie!
      As long as you keep the guiding as a part-time thing, it really is enjoyable (despite the tourists). And I agree on the satisfaction of having helped someone to have a fabulous holiday!

  2. Great insight into your profession. It reminds me of being a camp counselor! How long did you train and study the routes to be able to lead groups?

    • Hi Alison
      I’ve travelled extensively myself, and I have been to many of the places where I take groups. But after a while, you can also quite confidently take people to new places. There is a nice network of guides who can give you info, and then you just play it by ear ;). I also had to do a guide exam here in SA, with a lot of focus on history, geography and current affairs.

  3. Pingback: Some work-days are better than others |·

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